From the inventors of McNamara’s electronic line (which failed spectacularly in Vietnam) comes the Electronic Coup/Revolution Predictor (EC/RP)! This is explained below in the attached Wired report.
The EC/RP is merely the latest effort in DARPA’s continuing campaign to overthrow Boyd’s Law* (i.e., Machines don’t fight war wars, people do, and they use their minds) by taking the mind out of the military’s Observation – Orientation – Decision – Action (OODA) loop, and hardwiring what little is left of it with a automated predict-decide-act computer algorithm — the goal, apparently, being to make stupid decisions faster.
This particular DARPA boondoggle is bizarre even by DARPA’s tolerant standards for lunacy. That is because the EC/RP is aimed predicting discontinuities in order to remove uncertainty from the future.
But, as any mathematician will tell you, it is theoretically impossible to predict through a discontinuity that is happening for the first time, and every political/military discontinuity is guaranteed to be a novel occurrence. That is because it will always be a unique product of a cultural evolution that is itself unpredictable by definition. All evolutionary processes, be they biological or cultural or mathematical (as in complexity theory), embody a mixture of random chance with necessity conditioned by some kind of selection process resulting in a non-linear feedback mechanism of some sort. The element of random chance makes the entire nonlinear process unpredictable, even in the case where the process is a mathematical one made up of of deterministic equations.
So this time, the jokers at DARPA want to do the impossible squared — i.e., they want to predict across a novel discontinuity to forecast the output of a cultural evolutionary process that is itself impossible to predict. Only in the Hall of Mirrors that is Versailles on the Potomac is such silly thinking considered to cutting edge research worthy of garnering gobs of money.
And remember … this kind of see-all – know-all mindset is being funded and sponsored by a Pentagon that can not even perform the relatively trivial task of keeping track of the money Congress appropriates for its defense budgets. Given DARPA’s long-standing blissful ignorance about the reality of life and culture, particularly in conflict situations, one wonders if the DARPA gurus can even account for the money being wasted on its project, even if they choose to include the human mind in the effort.
The bottom line: DARPA’s campaign to overturn Boyd’s Law may not contribute to winning wars, but it is guaranteed to pump unauditable amounts money to defense contractors.
In the last three years, America’s military and intelligence agencies have spent more than $125 million on computer models that are supposed to forecast political unrest. It’s the latest episode in Washington’s four-decade dalliance with future-spotting programs. But if any of these algorithms saw the upheaval in Egypt coming, the spooks and the generals are keeping the predictions very quiet.
Instead, the head of the CIA is getting hauled in front of Congress, making calls about Egypt’s future based on what he read in the press, and getting proven wrong hours later. Meanwhile, an array of Pentagon-backed social scientists, software engineers and computer modelers are working to assemble forecasting tools that are able to reliably pick up on geopolitical trends worldwide. It remains a distant goal.